When a manufacturer delivers a mixer, oven, fryer, slicer or other equipment to a commissary, central kitchen or retail grocery client, the relationship doesn’t end there.

And helping the client make sure that piece of equipment operates at peak efficiency for years, even decades, is one of the pillars of that relationship. 

Milwaukee-based equipment manufacturer Hatco Corp. has always focused on customer care and service relationships, says Steve Frahm, the company’s global service manager.

“It’s kind of the signature of Hatco — a service before sales policy,” Frahm says. “Over the years, the methods of delivering that message, aided by technology and multimedia, have changed. But the policy’s the same.”

The process starts on the manufacturing side, with the highest commitment to quality assurance every step of the way, Frahm says. That helps ensure that customers spend as little time as possible doing maintenance once they take possession of the equipment.

“Most of our equipment is very low or no maintenance aside from cleaning related to food safety,” Frahm says.

Still, the maintenance of Hatco equipment that is required is taken very seriously. The company has a number of protocols and procedures to ensure it’s handled effectively.

Hatco typically provides periodic maintenance cards that are posted in the kitchen where the equipment is placed. Frahm says those cards can be customized based on a customer’s particular needs.

Hatco also offers online training videos, online documentation and startup training on its larger equipment. “We train the trainer, if you will,” as Frahm puts it.

Company specialists will also go into the field to work with chefs and operators to operate and maintain their Hatco equipment and provide distance learning instructors for its dealer networks and service providers.

“It continues down to the reps of our equipment on the user end to make sure they’re continually communicating with customer, to make sure there’s contact info on each piece of equipment, to make sure that the relationship is never broken between the person selling it and the customer service,” Frahm says.


Coverage beginning at point-of-sale

At the Maysville, Oklahoma-based Burford Corp., maintenance help often starts immediately after the equipment is delivered to the customer, says Josh Hughes, service manager.

“We often assist with installation, setup and perhaps most importantly training on equipment we provide,” he says. “In the event the customer opts to self-install, we have technical support available 24/7 via telephone and email, along with setup and training videos we can supply.”

The roles Burford has played in assisting with equipment maintenance has changed over the years, Hughes says. Like most companies, Burford initially offered mainly installation and repair services.

But the company has since added services like the 24/7 tech support, service contracts, preventative maintenance outlines and, most recently, Burford Connect, which allows customers to track their Burford Corp. equipment in a more detailed manner utilizing real-time monitoring.

Burford also continues to refine its equipment manuals, adding details where needed but, more importantly, making them easier to use for their customers’ maintenance teams.

Hatco keeps a “tight leash” on where its equipment is going, Frahm adds. And the company makes sure it has follow-through on customer service, including a 24/7 phone assistance line for all Hatco customers. “We’re always available to them.”

While most Hatco equipment is largely maintenance-free, anything that has a fan motor in it for ventilation needs to have its filter cleaned, Frahm says. And humidified equipment and cabinets need to have their water filters cleaned and replaced and to undergo decalcification and deliming.

Whatever the problem or solution related to an equipment maintenance issue, communication is key, Frahm says.

“I think our greatest and most reliable information comes directly from our customers,” he says. “We’re a partner in their business rather than just a provider of equipment. That’s the difference between good customer service and what Hatco represents.”

The result? At its new employee training center, Hatco has what Frahm calls “a museum of sorts” featuring photographs of equipment that happy, proud customers have sent in.

Some of the equipment in the photos dates from the 1950’s, and it’s still running.  


Continuous improvement

When it comes to after-sales service, Burford wants to increase its effectiveness, Hughes says. “We strive to promote skills growth among our technicians as we see their performance as an extension of our advertising.”

That process begins even before Burford crates its equipment for delivery. Every piece of equipment, Hughes says, is put through a rigorous set of quality assurance protocols. Issues encountered are recorded and fed back to the company’s production teams in order to prepare them for future projects.

“We provide training with both operations and maintenance staff as an included part of every service technician’s visit, along with written information, instructional videos, PM schedules and tests for operators and maintenance staff after a training session for much of our product line.” 

Burford equipment, he adds, is designed to be easy to work with and on. The company’s goal is to make its equipment easy to maintain through the incorporation of items like lubeless bearings, tool-less sanitary fittings and single point LOTO.

“An effective maintenance program is one of the single most effective undertakings a facility can utilize to avoid unnecessary downtime,” Hughes says. “While the primary business of a bakery is to bake bread, obviously, once the point of nearly full automation is achieved and a facility is engaged in 24 hour production over multiple days per week, a close second must be keeping the equipment that allows the required production schedule to proceed uninterrupted.”

An effective equipment maintenance program, he says, is key to maximizing uninterrupted throughput and thereby profitability. Proper equipment maintenance ensures that you maximize your investment. “Burford equipment has been known to last for years. We sell parts for equipment sold in the ‘60s and ‘70s. These machines are still in use due to the maintenance programs.”


Insider Tips

Jimmie Winn, who works in technical product support, specialty products for Dover Food Retail, Conyers, Georgia, shares best practices on two common equipment maintenance issues:

Proper cleaning of a condenser coil and filter frequently with Self-contained Cases:

If a condenser coil and filter are not cleaned on a regular basis it will result in a compressor running at higher temperatures. This can result in internal limit switches to overheat and could cause the pressure switch to trip. When a pressure switch is tripped, it will shut down a refrigerated display case resulting in product loss and the potential for a costly service call as well as the possibility for premature compressor failure. Cleaning schedules will vary depending on case location and may require vacuuming or blowing out the coil to keep the case running properly. 

Confirm correct defrost schedules on refrigerated and frozen display cases to ensure evaporator coils are clear from ice build-up:

All refrigerated and frozen display cases go through a scheduled defrost cycle throughout each day to melt the potential for ice build-up on evaporator coils.  During the defrost cycle, all ice should be cleared. If it isn’t, there is potential for ice build-up which could result in loss of air flow and greatly impede case performance.  This can also cause high shelf temperatures and loss of product. If you are experiencing  any of these symptoms or needing defrost recommendations, refer to your display case manual for the manufacturer’s guidelines for defrost schedules.